Claims Conference Blames Dead Official for Botched $57M Holocaust Fraud Probe

Current Staff Plead Ignorance About 2001 Whistleblower Letter

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By Paul Berger

Published May 16, 2013, issue of May 31, 2013.
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Schneider testified in court at Domnitser’s trial in April that he was the Claims Conference’s chief operating officer in 2001, when the letter was received. But Godin-Kessler later said that Schneider had made an error and that he was only assistant executive vice president, a lower post.

Schneider declined to respond on the record to inquiries from the Forward about why the organization’s top managers decided not to pursue the allegations brought to their attention, as did Taylor.

The anonymous letter’s reappearance comes at a particularly difficult moment for the Claims Conference, which has faced increased pressure from critics who point to the fraud as a symbol of what they perceive as a lack of oversight and accountability at the organization.

In a recent Jerusalem Post article, Isi Leibler, a former World Jewish Congress official, criticized the Claims Conference’s board of directors for failing to launch an independent review to “establish the facts” of the fraud and for approving a board resolution expressing “complete confidence in the leadership and management of the Claims Conference.” Leibler termed the board’s action a “contemptuous rejection of all managerial accountability.”

Andrew Baker, a member of the Claims Conference board, said he did not believe that he was ever made aware of the letter. Baker said the fraud had been presented to the board as something that only came to the attention of senior staff in 2009.

“I think in hindsight it was obviously a mistake and more could have been done and should have been done,” Referring to senior Claims Conference officials, Baker said. “[We] don’t know what other things [were] on their desks at the time… we’re being asked to judge their judgment 12 year ago. I’m not sure how fair that request is.”

Baker stopped short of calling for an independent investigation into how the letter’s allegations were handled by Claims Conference officials in 2001. Nevertheless, he said that as a “longtime board member” he would be interested in knowing more.

“Not necessarily because that would lead me to change my view or judgment of [the Claims Conference’s] professional leadership,” he added.

Contact Paul Berger at berger@forward.com or on Twitter @pdberger


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